BloggerCon Infrastructure update

The BloggerCon infrastructure session is starting to come together. Among the confirmed attendees are two high-profile infrastructure developers (tease, tease). I’m still waiting to hear from a couple more folks before announcing. Also, I’m still looking for someone who fits the “writer” profile. Need your help!

In the meantime I’ve put together an outline of potential discussion topics. What am I missing?

Very important The outline is an outline of the topics and not how we’re going to run the session. Ticking sequentially through the topics would put everyone to sleep and would impose too much structure.

Instead, I’m thinking to run the discussion the way we did in my high school Great Books class. The format was as follows: a discussion leader prepares a list of leading questions. The questions are carefully crafted to be engaging and have many possible answers. The leader asks the questions, members of the discussion group respond, provide alternative perspectives, debate each other, etc. Then we move on to the next question.

Here are a few example questions:

1. How many weblogs do you read?
2. Do you read weblogs at home? At work? The same ones?
3. Do you write a weblog at home? At work? The same one?
3. How do you find new weblogs to read?
4. What do you weblog?
5. Can you turn a Geocities home page into a weblog?
6. Can you turn a desktop computer into a weblog host?
7. Can you write a weblog without writing?
8. Do you have to write a weblog to really understand weblogs?
9. How can I make some money? What should I charge for and when?
10. Who is reading your weblog? How do you know? How did they find it?
11. Has you weblog ever gone offline? If yes, what did you do when that happened? If no, what would you do?

These are just a few random ideas. Add more in the comments section and we’ll consider them.

One difference from my Great Books class is that we’ll have an Internet- and projector-connected computer for short demonstrations, many discussion leaders instead of just one, and some open Q&A. Let’s learn some great things together.

Unsolicited advice: weblogs are about flow

I’ve noticed this thought trend among technologists to want to contain, control and constrain the weblog information space. Some want the content to have more structure so that it can be searched using advanced methods. Some think about establishing uniform style rules so that every piece by every author looks and feels the same. Some exert special effort to craft each post into a work of genius. Some want to track each news message that they read, “keeping” some, marking others as read, deleting others.

The way I see it, these folks are thinking about weblogs in a static way, like a mid-90s era homepage or a Government database that gets distributed on CD ROM. But weblogs are about flow. They are closer to jazz improvisation than Beethoven’s fifth.

To really get into weblogs as a writer, try to keep moving to stay with the flow. The old advice to a budding jazz musicians applies: “If you make a mistake and hit a bad note, don’t stop! Hit it again and keep going”. Too much worrying will make a burden of posting, making work of what should be fun.

To really get into weblogs as a reader, try to avoid micromanaging each weblog post. Holding your posts too closely will often lead to one of two outcomes: a) you’ll have a narrow subscriptions list, maybe 4 or 5 sites, because you can’t possibly follow more (experienced readers can follow dozens); b) you’ll wind up with thousands of unread posts in your aggregator (the horrors of email all over again). I’ve written about this elsewhere.

In short, free your mind, and your weblog will follow.

BloggerCon Infrastructure session

I’m thinking about what sorts of folks could help make the BloggerCon Infrastructure session a big success. I think people who want to learn about the infrastructure will be there by default. The trick is to make sure there are knowledgeable people there to answer questions and keep the discussion going. Here is a list of profiles to help with figuring out who to reach out to:

A writer who is famously obsessive about tracking their rankings and inbound traffic. We would expect this person to be expert on how Blogdex compares to Daypop and Technorati. They may also be familiar with how desktop editors work.

A reader who has searched for, and maybe found, the “perfect” news aggregator. This person will have tried various aggregators and can talk about how centralized aggregators compare to desktop aggregators.

A lone developer who has used the infrastructure to build something totally different from what came before. Like the writer and reader, this person is a customer of the infrastructure. This person should be able to explain what “pings” are and explain basic distributed computing ideas to a non-technical audience.

An entrepreneur or other centralized service operator who has to worry about keeping servers alive and paying the bills.

These are just profiles, of course, many of which may live inside the same person. Also, we are not limited to having just one person per profile. The more the merrier! Can you suggest articulate people who meet these profiles and can be in New England on October 5?